The History of the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital
The history of the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital is encircled by two individual hospitals and their heritage. The Community Hospital consists of the North Unit which is the former St. Francis Hospital and the South Unit which is the former Public Hospital.
In 1903, a small-pox epidemic broke out in the town of Smiths Falls. The Mayor, Mr. Adam Fraser, and some of the doctors approached the Archbishop of Kingston urging him to send nursing sisters to care for the people stricken with the dreaded disease. In appreciation for their great service a delegation of leading town citizens approached the Mother General of the House of Providence in Kingston to request that she allow her sisters to remain in Smiths Falls and open a hospital.
Elmsley Hall was purchased from Arthur L. Ferguson. Plans were made to build up the walls of the old house, which had been damaged by fire, but after an architectural consultation it was decided to construct an entirely new and modern building. Funds to finance the new building were obtained by private subscription. The first patient was admitted to the hospital on October 12, 1904; the official opening took place on November 29, 1904.
Government authorities pressed for improvement in some of the hospital facilities in accordance with the advance in medical treatment. On May 28,1914, the St. Michael=s wing was opened. This new wing consisted of three new floors housing the offices, the chapel, pharmacy, patient=s rooms and the operating room. The new wing also contained an isolation unit which one year later in 1915 was used as nurses quarters for the hospital training school. Nurses were trained at St. Francis until 1925 when the Ontario Government withdrew training schools in small facilities.
Renovations were made in 1950, but as the population of Smiths Falls grew expansion became a necessity. On January29,1953, the St. Joseph=s Obstetrical Wing was opened. This addition brought the hospital capacity to 65 beds and20 bassinettes. In 1956, a third floor was added to the St. Joseph=s wing which housed the new Operating Room=s recovery room and an additional 22 beds. The south wing was built in 1965. St. Francis Hospital was to serve the sick in peace until 1975.
A committee composed of representatives of the Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist Churches of Smiths Falls together with representatives of the Town Council, Fraternal Societies and Railway interests approached the Ontario Government and received letters of incorporation as Smiths Falls Public Hospital on March 1, 1910.
On May 16, 1910, Mrs. Mary E. Chambers executed a deed conveying the Chambers homestead to the board. The hospital was to be known as The Chambers Memorial Hospital out of respect for Mrs. Chamber=s deceased husband and son.
The official opening took place on September 30, 1910. The funds were contributed by the citizens of Smiths Falls, the surrounding counties and the generosity of the late George H. Frost of Plainfield, N.J,. who gave the wing for the public in memory of his brother, Charles B. Frost.
For the next 48 years minor adjustments and necessary renovations were maintained. The hospital had 45-50 beds. In 1958 extensive additions and renovations were carried out bringing the bed capacity to 94. Ten years later further additions and alterations brought the bed capacity to 100.
1975 was the year that reigns supreme in the political history of the hospitals in Smiths Falls. The Ontario government was investigating the role of the two hospitals. If one unit could satisfy the community=s needs why should there be two? Budgets were tight in those days. Thus after a great deal of dispute and publicity the Sisters of Providence agreed to sell their charter to St. Francis Hospital to the Ontario Government on July 16,1975. After 70 years of dedicated service to the community the sisters left the confines of their hospital in November of 1975.
On June 1,1976 both the individual hospital units ceased to be and were amalgamated as one hospital with one Board of Directors and one Administrator. In total the hospital had 132 beds. All the active treatment facilities were at the North Unit and all the chronic and rehabilitative services were at the South Unit.
A further amalgamation took place on March 31, 1995 during which the hospital corporations of The Great War Memorial Hospital of Perth District (GWM Site) and the Smiths Falls Community Hospital (Smiths Falls Site) merged to form a new corporation called the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital. The merger has facilitated the rationalization of inpatient and outpatient services across the two hospital sites, which are separated by a distance of 20 km.